FARGO — October is National Pork Month, which gives me another reason to sing the praises of this flavorful meat known as the “other white meat.”
Lean pork is part of our weekly menu regimen, and this category includes cuts that are low in calories and fat, like tenderloin, loin chops, top loin and sirloin roasts. Cooking lean cuts of pork to the proper temperature is important not just for safe eating, but also to ensure that the meat is tender, juicy and full of flavor.
My mother is an excellent cook, but, when I was growing up, my perception of pork was that it was tough, dry and chewy. And that’s not her fault. In the past, a disease called trichinosis could be acquired by eating pork that was cooked below the guidelines of 160 degrees, which gave people cause to cook their cuts of pork loin well beyond that number to remove any threat. However, thanks to improvements in the way that pigs are raised today, trichinosis is no longer a threat when eating domesticated pork. As a result, in 2011 the U.S. Department of Agriculture decided to bring the pink back to pork by lowering the recommended minimum temperature to 145 degrees.
I recently did a taste comparison where I cooked a pair of pork loin chops using the old and new standards. The pork chop that was cooked to 160 degrees was curled up on its sides, and the inside was completely white with few juices spilling out. However, the chop that was cooked to 145 degrees was plump and tender on the outside, and when I cut into its slightly pink center, the juices came dripping forth. A meat thermometer will help to ensure that the desired temperature is achieved.
Today’s Crispy Pork Tenderloin Sandwich features a whole pork tenderloin carved into four to six pieces, which are then pounded with a meat mallet into thin cutlets just a bit thicker than a quarter of an inch. Each cutlet is dredged in flour, egg wash and a mixture of crispy panko breadcrumbs, freshly grated Parmesan cheese, fresh rosemary and salt and pepper.
Next, I pan-fry the breaded cutlets in canola oil until golden brown and crispy on each side. Canola oil has a high tolerance to heat and little to no flavor or odor, so that it won’t affect the taste of the main ingredient.
I serve the crispy pork cutlets in onion rolls from a local supermarket’s bakery with a tangy Mustard Aioli and a Sweet and Sour Slaw made with capers, red onion, cabbage, stone-ground mustard and cornichons (or dill pickles). These flavors pair well with the pork tenderloin to create a sandwich that is crispy, tender and full of flavor.
To all the pig farmers in our region and throughout the nation, thank you for all you do to help us put beautiful, nutritious and delicious food on our table. Happy National Pork Month!